Much ink has been spilled about the fate of the GOP among important groups of voters. Looking at yesterday’s two major statewide elections—the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia—it’s clear that the women’s vote is key in determining Republicans’ electoral success.

Let’s start with Virginia, the more competitive of the two races. Democrat Terry McAuliffe eked out a surprisingly close win over Republican Ken Cuccinelli. Given the closeness of the race, the gender gap was enough to make a difference: women (51 percent of all voters) supported McAuliffe by nine points (51-42%), while men gave Cuccinelli a three point edge (48-45%). The marriage gap is even more striking and worrisome for the GOP. Fifty-one percent of married women gave their votes to Cuccinelli, while 67% of unmarried women supported McAuliffe. As marriage rates decline, this poses a major problem for Republicans going forward.

On to New Jersey: Republican Chris Christie won a second term in a landslide over Democrat Barbara Buono. Christie actually won the women’s vote—and by a sizable margin. Women supported Christie over Buono by a 57-42% margin. Since women tend to vote for Democratic women, the fact that Christie won women so definitively should cheer the GOP.

I’d like to draw attention to the breakdown of the women’s vote by race. Comparing the two states paints a fascinating picture:


                                                                   Cuccinelli             McAuliffe

White women (36% of electorate)              54%                        38%

Black women (11% of electorate)               7                            91

Latino women (2% of electorate)               N/A                        N/A


New Jersey

                                                                   Christie                 Buono

White women (38% of electorate)              69%                        30%

Black women (9% of electorate)                 18                           80

Latino women (5% of electorate)                44                           53


Both Republicans won white women decisively, though Cuccinelli’s margin was notably smaller than Christie’s. But with the white portion of the electorate shrinking relative to other races, Republicans have to boost their percentages among minority voters. Here, Cuccinelli definitely had problems—more than nine in ten black women voted for McAuliffe. Christie also struggled among minority women, but there are signs of hope for the GOP, especially among Latinos. More than four in ten Latino women cast their votes for Christie. (In fact, Christie ended up winning the Latino vote as a whole by a narrow margin, and he received the support of two in ten black voters.) Nationally, the African American population is growing slowly, but the Hispanic (and Asian) populations are growing very fast. 

What can the GOP learn coming out of yesterday’s gubernatorial contests? You’ve got to be able to appeal to women—they hold the key to a candidate getting elected these days.